Obama Takes Plan for Dads to the Barbershop

We talked to the head of the president's fatherhood initiative about the unconventional outreach.

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Ultimately, that benefits children because there are definitely problems with respect to fatherlessness. A third of our children wake up each morning without the biological father in the house. And that means that, over time, these children are more likely not to have their fathers involved in their lives. Many dropouts, many children who get involved with criminal behavior, many who have problems with drugs, didn’t have their fathers involved in their lives.

So, at the end of the day, although we are focused on building the capacity of fathers, that work is done with an eye toward the well-being of children.

TR: What are some of the messages you’re going to be sharing with dads this weekend?

KB: Spend more time with your children. More time equals quality. It equals confidence for our children. Some of us have been led to believe that money is the most important thing, but fathers need to know that their presence is a present. Also, be responsible. We are clear that no one is perfect, but you have to put in positive work to get positive outcomes.

TR: President Obama is black. You’re black. We tend to associate barbershops as gathering places for black men in particular, and many of the cities you’re targeting have high black populations. Is this initiative really about African-American men?

KB: No, the initiative is for all fathers. Now, we’re primarily targeting low-income fathers, so undoubtedly you’re going to see more African-American and Latino men in that group. And you’re going to see a disproportionate number of black men who are struggling with unemployment rates, incarceration rates, etc. We selected our cities because they’re major cities with major social issues, as well as an abundance of resources. So the face of Fatherhood Buzz may look African American, but it’s about all fathers.

TR: What does “responsible fatherhood” mean?

KB: Understanding your worth and significance in the life of your child and parenting in a way that reflects that.

Jenée Desmond-Harris is The Root’s staff writer. Follow her on Twitter.

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